Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When is it Time To Forgive Steve Lappas?

Steve Lappas' tenure as head coach at Villanova had some definite peaks and valleys.  While Lappas was at Villanova, we won our only Big East Championship but never advanced beyond the second round of the NCAA Tournament.  It is without question that his teams underachieved but there must be a time in which all wounds should be forgiven so one would think that eventually the animosity toward Lappas will wear off.  The real question is when? Almost ten years after the unceremonious end of his tenure on The Main Line, the very mention of his name will still provoke anger among some fans.  The greatest enemy of Lappas in redeeming his own name is his prickly demeanor (compared to Jay Wright) and lack of leading man good looks (possessed by Wright.)  There were also the littler things such as the failed Michael Bradley experiment and hiring Tim Thomas' high school coach in a Calipari-like act of desperation to convince a one and done recruit to play at his school.
To fully scrutinize at Lappas' tenure, you must look at the meat of the sandwich along with the two pieces of moldy bread that bookend it.  When Rollie Massimino left Villanova to replace Jerry Tarkanian at  UNLV, the prgram was a mess; mostly due to the fact that Rollie's head had grown incredibly large and he fashioned himself a great coach when in reality, Rollie was a good coach who struck the lottery for a six game span in 1985.  One of Lappas' first official acts upon being hired at Villanova was to talk a recruit out of signing with Tulane.  That recruit's name: Kerry Kittles, now best known as a former NBA lottery pick and all time leading scorer in school history.  The Kittles era combined high expectations with lackluster performances in the NCAA Tournament (along with an NIT title.)  The fact is, 1985 changed everything for Villanova basketball coaches (for better or worse) and after the national championship, anything short of prolonged tournament success simply wasn't going to cut it.  Since Lappas' tournament resume included neither prolonged success or success period, Villanova ultimately forced him out (ultimately the right decision.)
Now to my original question, when is it time to forgive? Anti Lappas sentiment still burns hot at Villanova despite the fact that nearly a decade has passed and and Jay Wright has vaulted the program into perennial contender status (something that none of his predecessers have done.)  Lappas has kept a low profile at Villanova which has in my opinion allowed anger to fester.  Can we really ever expect Villanova fans to let bygones be bygones and allow Lap to return to a game at Villanova without expecting intense disapproval.  Perhaps down the line he will have a Bill Buckner moment and return to The Pavillion to a golf clap instead of loud, near unanimous boos.  As Villanova fans, we must also look back and wonder if it was really Lappas' fault that Kerry Kittles didn't want the ball in his hands to end games or that his demise coincided with the beginning of perhaps the richest period in the history of Big East basketball.

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